Timeline for Car Seats

Rear facing, forward facing and booster car seats

My baby seemed very bored in the car and was always trying to turn around and look at what was going on in the front of the car.  She seemed ready to make the switch from rear facing to a forward facing car seat.  I had heard from a few friends that it is acceptable to make the switch at 18 months or twenty pounds.  However, studies and current guidelines are reporting that babies should remain in a rear facing car seat until the maximum weight limit on the car seat or a minimum of two years old.

 Safety First

Safety is always the top concern and rear-facing car seats are the safest option.  Don’t rush to make the switch.  There are many milestones that are exciting to reach a head of schedule but this is not one of them.

In a car crash the force is exerted over the back of the rear facing car seat and baby’s neck and head receive the best protection.   Baby’s heads are approximately 25 % of their body mass, compared to 6 % in adults.  When the car seat is forward facing the pressure and force in a car crash is exerted on the head and neck.  This can result in spinal cord damage and paralysis. Forward facing can also leave the baby susceptible to incoming debris from the windshield.   Some studies show that the baby is five times safer if they remain in a rear facing car seat until age two!

Occupying the Rear Facing Baby

Since my baby was becoming fussy and bored with facing the rear we tried a few things to help her stay happy and distracted.  First we put up a mirror on the headrest facing her.  This allowed me to view her from the rear view mirror and she was able to see herself and stay entertained.  We got the Brica Car Seat  Mirror that plays music and has a night-light.  It includes a remote control so I can adjust the music or light from the driver’s seat.  We also started to use the car seat mobile.  The music and lights provided a great distraction.

Forward Facing Car Seat

When your baby is a minimum of two years old or the maximum weight limit, about 35 pounds, you can switch to the forward facing car seat. Convertible car seats are a great option like the Britax car seats.  Babies are very expensive and buying two car seats and a booster seat was too expensive.  The convertible car seat gives you the rear and forward facing option and we could continue to use the car seat bases that we installed in each of our cars.

 Booster Car seats

When you have reached the maximum age or weight on the car seat you can switch to the booster seat.  The typical weight limit on a forward facing car seat is about 65 pounds.  The five point harness system of the car seat is crucial until they reach a minimum of this weight.

Booster seats are mandatory in half of the US states until age 8. The booster seat allows for older toddlers and children to remain safe since they are not large enough to receive the maximum protection from an adult seat belt.  Even though they may seem mature enough to sit in the seat without the harness this will not provide enough coverage in case of an accident.

Seat belts are made for adults and if there is an accident the seat belt is designed to exert the force on the strongest part of the adult, the hips and shoulders.  Small children do not have the strength an adult has and could receive undue injuries.  The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends children remain in a booster seat until they are a minimum of 4’9″.  Once they reach this height  they are officially ready to sit in the seat without extra support from a booster seat.

The Graco Highback Turbo Booster Car Seat is a great option because is provides whiplash protection, converts to a backless booster, cup holders, and adjustable head and arm rests. This is the most popular booster car seat on Amazon by far, and it has an exceptional rating of 4.4 out of 5 stars.

The bottom line is that safety should not be rushed and your child receives the best protection from the car seats and booster seat harnesses. Always follow the age and weight guidelines on your car seat manual and don’t let a fussy baby pressure you into turning the car seat around too soon.

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